Human rights groups have called on the Tajik government to lift a "politically motivated travel ban" on an independent activist's family, and put an end to its "vicious campaign of intimidation" against dissidents' relatives.
Seven watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), said on August 7 that security services forced Shabnam Hudoidodova's 10-year-old daughter, elderly mother, and brother off an airplane at Tajikistan's main airport last week.
They were on their way to Europe to reunite with the activist, the groups said.
"The cruelty Tajik authorities have shown against this 10-year-old girl and her relatives simply for her mother’s peaceful criticism of the government is shocking," Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW said in a statement. "They should be allowed to leave Tajikistan immediately without any fear of retribution."
The statement said Tajik security service officers on August 4 boarded the plane on which Hudoidodova’s family members were waiting to depart, removed them from the flight, and banned them from traveling to Europe to reunite with the activist.
The three were interrogated for hours and forced to sign documents acknowledging that all of them, including the girl, were on a "wanted list," it added.
The move is the latest in a series of actions against Hudoidodova’s family that included violent attacks against her daughter and other relatives, the groups said.
They added that Tajik authorities have regularly detained, threatened, and banned from travel family members of other opposition activists abroad.
"Targeting dissidents' families is a new low set by the government, and an especially despicable tactic,"Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner said in the statement. "Tajikistan’s international partners, including Brussels and Washington, must make a clear call for an end to this abuse."
Hudoidodova, an activist from the Tajik political movement Group 24, was detained in Belarus for more than eight months in 2015 and 2016 under a Tajik extradition request and Interpol warrant.
After that, she stopped her political opposition work and took up human rights activism in Poland on behalf of Tajik asylum seekers there, the seven rights groups said in their joint statement.
Group 24 was officially banned in Tajikistan in October 2014 after authorities labeled it as an extremist organization.